Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: South Africa to move to Level 1 COVID-19 restrictions from Sept. 21. Limited international travel to resume Oct. 1.

Alert Begins 17 Sep 2020 12:42 PM UTC
Alert Expires 30 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Affected Area(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Business and travel disruptions, entry restrictions; possible increased security, crime

Authorities announced that South Africa will move to Level 1 of the country's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) prevention measures from Sept. 21. The national state of disaster will remain in place through at least Oct. 15. Several new measures will also be introduced:

International Travel Restrictions:


  • International travel is permitted from Oct. 1 to and from countries that have been pre-approved by government authorities. A full list of designated countries will be provided in the coming days.


  • Three international airports will be open for the entry and departure of foreign travelers, namely OR Tambo (JNB), Cape Town International (CPT), and King Shaka International Airport (DUR).


  • Those entering South Africa will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival in the country.


  • All travelers will be screened upon arrival. Those showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be required to quarantine until they test negative, even if a negative COVID-19 test was taken 72 hours prior.


  • As of Sept. 17, two land border posts are open: the Skilpadshek border post with Botswana and the Maseru Bridge border post with Lesotho.


Domestic Restrictions:


  • All retail outlets are permitted to operate as long as social distancing measures are adhered to.


  • Public rail transportation, minibus taxi, and bus services are permitted but need to adhere to directives following the increase of commuters. These will be announced in the coming days. E-hailing services will be permitted to operate under certain circumstances and between designated hours. More information on this will be announced in the coming days.


  • All ports of entry for the exporting and importing of goods to neighboring countries will reopen. Imported goods will be prioritized for transportation. Further directions will be issued in the coming days regarding other goods.


  • The 2200-0400 curfew will be shortened to 0000-0400. Medical personnel and other essential workers are exempt from the measure but require a travel permit.


  • There will be no limitations on personal movement, including interprovincial travel; however, people are encouraged to only travel when essential.


  • The mandatory wearing of protective facemasks in public remains in place. Those caught contravening this measure will face fines or criminal charges.


  • Social, religious, political, and other gatherings will be permitted, so long as the capacity does not exceed 50 percent of the venue. No more than 250 people are permitted to gather in indoor spaces, and no more than 500 are to gather at outdoor spaces.


  • Funeral attendance will increase from 50 people to 100 people.


Authorities have reiterated that the disease activity will determine the increase or decrease of restrictive measures in individual districts, metros, and provinces. The country moved from Level 4 to Level 3 of its five-level risk scale June 1, and from Level 3 to Level 2 Aug. 18. The resumption of economic activities in additional sectors is subject to stringent health and safety measures. South African authorities declared a national state of disaster March 15.

Background and Analysis
South Africa's travel restrictions and preventive measures correspond with similar actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19.

Stages of the phasing of restrictive measures are as follows:


  • Level 5 – Drastic measures are required.


  • Level 4 – Some activity can be allowed, subject to extreme requirements.


  • Level 3 – The easing of some restrictions on work and social activities.


  • Level 2 – Further easing of restrictions, but the maintenance of social distancing.


  • Level 1 – Most normal activity can resume, with caution and health guidelines followed at all times.


COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. South Africa declared a National State of Disaster March 15 and implemented nationwide movement restrictions March 26.

Heed all official advisories and remain nonconfrontational if stopped by authorities. Reconfirm all travel arrangements if traveling to, from, or via South Africa. Shipping disruptions may occur; consider delaying or rerouting shipments. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Back to the COVID-19 Risk Intelligence & Resource Center